Did that hay squeak?
It did. And Klein could see a curve of a gray-furred ear, smell a distinct mix of fur and earth and grain that somehow summed up to mouse–
With an ear-itching high squeal, the mouse burst into polygons.
A few yards away, Issin cracked open sleepy blue eyes. “Saying that ‘cause you pounced it,” he yawned, fangs gaping wide, “or ‘cause you wanted to eat it?”
That sparked a tussle. And some swearing. And a mighty free-for-all in red, with one black shadow crawling out of his hidden nest in the hayloft to watch, shake his head, and maybe grin. Just a little.
All in all, not a bad way to start the morning.
“Okay,” Klein summed up, as they finished their breakfast with the rest of the Mistfeathers’ ranch hands. Fuurinkazan plus two, now, as it’d been most waking hours since they’d left the mausoleum a few nights back. And that was interesting. “We got the Willow Charcoal to fire the purifying kiln. We got the Obsidian Shards that Vincent says ought to take in the curse when the sentira heats up. We’ve got the Winged Serpent Venom to pour onto the dorje before it’s fired; nice shot, Tae.”
The draconic archer blushed, red making the pearly scales scattered over her cheeks stand out like reverse freckles. “I’m glad I helped.”
“So are we.” Dynamm smiled at her, only half his attention on whatever Klein was saying.
Got to tease him about that later, Klein noted. Not that he could blame his friend. Scales weren’t Klein’s thing, but pearl-white hair and feathered wings turned a pretty girl into someone who’d taken a wild back road out of heaven.
A really mean back road, between the fangs, claws, and bow that could put a shaft through small trees. Solo or partying with the Siren Sisters, Tae had a reputation as a good mid-level grinding toward being a clearer. She’d proven her skill in the fight with the Winged Serpent, arcing her arrows through the forest to spread the magical net that had let Fuurinkazan capture the monster without killing it. Because Issin, shaman that he was, had pointed out something Klein hadn’t even thought of: this quest was about purification.
And on top of that, Kirito had confirmed that yes, he knew Vincent. And this was the same elan ranger who’d given him the quest with the Nightjars.
So no killing. Not when they didn’t have to; not unless it was self-defense. The Winged Serpent was a strong and dangerous mob, but it’d left Snow Springs alone. They had no reason to kill it.
The net had been a pain in the neck.